Mumbai: More than 17 years on, the Haji Ali dargah restoration project is nowhere close to taking final shape. Last week, Mumbai city guardian minister Deepak Kesarkar met the shrine's trustees to take stock of the work, which has been delayed for “various reasons”, said Sohail Khandwani of the dargah trust. One reason for the delay has been the contractors. “They are unscrupulous and hence responsible for the slow pace of work,” said a person aware of the work progress.” Kesarkar was not available for a comment.
Initial estimated cost was Rs 9 crore
The multi-crore revamp has been divided into parts. The restoration of the shrine complex and structures within it is being done by the trust. While the initial estimated cost was Rs9 crore, it has now increased to Rs35 crore. At a whopping Rs120 crore, the state government is shouldering the responsibility of giving a fillip to the pathway leading to the popular shrine, which forms the second part of the project. It also includes relocation of hawkers and creation of public spaces. “The intention of the government has been to give the area a facelift,” said Khandwani, adding that discussion held last week was the 17th meeting on the issue. Multiple government agencies are involved in the project, including the tourism ministry, Maharashtra Maritime Board and the public works department (PWD).
As per the blueprint, the government will widen the pathway up to 10 feet besides elevating its height, so that it remains accessible during high tide. “It gets too hot (on the pathway) during the day. The new design includes canopies and places for people to sit,” said Abha Narain Lambah, conservation architect who is consultant to the PWD. The dargah trust is rebuilding the entire complex with 'makrana' marble.
The dargah trust has envisaged demolition of the major buildings inside the complex, including the shrine, to make way for new structures. Currently, dargah's dome is under-construction. Chetan Raikar, architect in-charge of restoration of the main complex, said that the marble for the dome, like the rest of the building's stone, is being cut and sculpted near the marble mines at Makrana, Rajasthan, and transported to Mumbai for assembling. “There is no place near the shrine to carve the stones,” said Raikar.
Haji Ali dargah
Haji Ali dargah is believed to be the grave of Pir Haji Ali Shah Baba, a merchant who gave away his wealth to charity. The shrine dates back to 1453 AD though the present structures, including the mosque, dargah and sanatorium, were built a century ago. The complex, which sits on a rocky islet off Worli, is connected to the mainland by a pathway which currently goes under water during high tide. Around 80,000-1 lakh people visit Haji Ali dargah every day.
-Grand project divided in 2 parts
-Dargah trust is revamping shrine complex and structures within
-Initial estimated cost was pegged at Rs9 crore, which has now risen to Rs35 crore
-State government is redeveloping pathway, building public spaces, relocating hawkers
-Expenditure comes around at whopping Rs120 crore
-Multiple agencies like Maritime Board and public works department part of project
-So far, 17 meetings have been held on the issue